What I’m doing in Redmond

I’ve been writing about Microsoft products since 1994 or so, I guess, and the first time I visited the Microsoft campus was in 1996, when I learned about the first version of Visual Studio. (Which was code named Boston, by the way. Yet another fact missing from Wikipedia.) Since then, I’ve visited here dozens of times and met with all kinds of people from all kinds of product groups. It’s generally been a good time, and a valuable use of time, for whatever that’s worth.

This week, I’m back, but for a sharply different experience. I’m having the requisite meetings, of course, and my regular job doesn’t come to a screeching halt, so I still need to show up for WinInfo each day, and the SuperSite and blog and so on. And I’m recording the podcast tomorrow (Wednesday) because I’m flying home on Thursday. Which is earlier than I wanted to come home, but I’m going away again on Monday. So it’s been (and will continue to be) busy.

But back to this week. Much of my time these three days has (and will be) spent alone in a room, with a guy from Microsoft’s PR company, and with a Windows Phone. I’m writing a book, and the devices won’t be available to anyone outside the company any time soon, so this is the only way to spend serious time with a device. And heck, it was my idea.

As I noted previously, there’s a lot I can’t discuss. I’m OK with this deal because I need the access, and the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term desire to spill the beans, but honestly I’m not even sure what the secrecy is all about. That’s their decision though, so we’ll all have to live with it.

Face time with the device has been very valuable and is helping enormously. I’ve been able to document how this thing works, and I’ll expand that documentation into book form over time, using my notes, and some still photos and videos. None of this stuff is of sufficient quality for publication, but it’s perfect for background material.

If I can’t get a device before the end of June, I’ll try come back and do this again. Hopefully by that time what I’ll be doing is filling in the gaps and not providing a foundation. But this week has been very valuable for establishing that foundation, and seeing this device do its thing with my data has been both eye-opening and, God help me, delightful. It’s just a neat system. I don’t think I’m violating the spirit or letter of my NDA by saying so.

My goal with this book and blog has always been to be as open as possible about the whole process, from the money to the time suck to the futility of it all. But I have to work within the confines established by Microsoft in this case, of course. Rest assured, we’ll discuss whatever details I’ve learned this week when it’s possible to do so.

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20 Responses to What I’m doing in Redmond

  1. claytontlewis says:

    I’m very excited to hear what you have learned. There seemed to be a hint that this experience on campus wasn’t as good as the others. Is this perhaps from the change in PR mentality at MS?

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Sorry… It’s been an exhausting week. The campus experience has been fine, humorous even, just grueling because of the nature of the work. My experience with the phone has been overwhelmingly positive.

  2. clind says:

    Glad it sounds like WP7 may live up to, at some extent, what we’ve been seeing in previews and such so far. Best of luck on getting the book finished.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      I believe that to be the case.

      As for the book, for the first time, I can see how this will actually come together, both from scheduling and content perspectives

  3. gpsarakis says:

    Good stuff. Since it sounds like you really like it so far, and having used a iPhone for a good bit of time, I think this shows MS is on the right track.

    I understand how some of the more techie, power users feel left out but the more broad consumer market has to come first for this thing to grow. After that MS can start to open it up more. I hope they’ve given you a clue/hint about how often they expect to bring out updates because that’s the big key to all of this IMO.

    If MS can keep updating WP7 around every 2 months with new features and opening up APIs etc, that should help win over many of the power users who are sitting on the fence.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Microsoft’s desire to take over the updating of devices should make a huge difference. Whether they will do so that rapidly remains to be seen. I do hope so.

  4. zunderscore says:

    “Yet another fact missing from Wikipedia.”

    Not anymore. :)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Visual_Studio#Visual_Studio_97

  5. romit says:

    Are you allowed to talk about how the app ecosystem is coming along? We have heard from Skype that they are not going to have a WP7 app (at least “not for now”) but anything else you know that you can make public?

    I am aware of seesmic, foursquare and I would assume the usual suspects like ebay, amazon, etc. would be on board. any other app stuff?

    And anyone talking about a WP7 slate/tablet?

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      With regards to the Skype/Mozilla type stuff, where specific partners have voiced concerns about the WP7 development platform and the limitations that they see for their own specific solutions, yes. I was told the following…

      “The cool thing about the mobile space is that it’s ripe for innovation. The downside is that we can’t do everything at once. We have to have focus. And we made a decision around what we would focus on for this turn of the crank, for the first version. We knew this would create difficulties for for certain third parties to build on. It’s mpossible to build a high performance race car on a mountain bike frame. They’re good for certain things only. But we made the decision to focus on things we will do really, really well. For those that we didn’t, we feel that we’re better off waiting until we can do them really, really well.”

      Things things, presumably, involve the “native code” issue that Mozilla raised.

      I would point people to the situation with .NET and how it evolved rapidly over time. At first, some seemingly basic things were missing, forcing developers to turn to the Win32 API or other non-managed code solutions in order to get different things done. Over time, it got better. And though it was/is still a subset of the full capabilities of “native” (i.e. Win32) code, .NET (and .NET-based technologies like WPF, Silverlight and so on) eventually offered enough of the underlying capabilities, as well as their own unique capabilities, that these differences no longer mattered.

      With WP7, Microsoft is starting over. And as was the case with .NET, and with consumer products like Zune, the first version will nail the high points but we lacking in some areas. They know about this and have apparently decided to do it purposefully with the idea of filling the gaps over time. Hopefully they do so quickly.

      I will have more about this stuff over the weekend in a formal article on the SuperSite.

      • romit says:

        Good stuff. Completely understand. This “new” Microsoft seems to be completely opposite of the Microsoft of the years past. This new company is aggressive, practical, open, transparent, willing to take chances, listening to customers actively, etc. Seems almost unbelievable :-)

      • interframe says:

        I was wondering whether or not Microsoft has told you about how big the Windows Phone team currently is. There were rumors late last year that there were over 1000 people working in the Windows Phone division (the majority working on WP7). There was also talk about Microsoft spending billions for R&D and marketing for Windows Phone.

        If true, I think these number show how dedicated Microsoft is internally, and how dedicated they will be in the long term.

        You mentioned how Microsoft drastically improved Zune over the years (even though it hasn’t been commercially successful). But the big difference between Zune and Windows Phone is that Windows Phone is Windows, and mobile smartphone platforms are the future.

        So, I can see that in 2-3 years Windows Phone could possibly be a bigger deal for Microsoft than Windows itself. After all, like you say Paul, the future is mobile and connected, and the traditional Windows desktop OS is great for the desktop, but not so much for the phone.

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        No, but I can try to find out. I will say that the sheer number of people brought over from “Big Windows” (as they call it) suggests a sense of urgency that certainly wasn’t present previously.

        And yeah, my expectation is that these mobile non-traditional-Windows systems will be the “norm” at some point. And that much of what I write about will be cloud/mobile and not necessarily old-fashioned PC desktop stuff.

  6. roberthleeii says:

    being an iPhone user and not being a windows mobile supporter do you think that windows phone 7 is a good competitor for the iPhone and won’t disappoint switchers?

  7. interframe says:

    In your last blog post, you mentioned that you would be able to take one of the WP7 devices home with you, is this still true?

  8. Gary Russo says:

    Even though it’s a prototype device, I look forward to any comments on WP7 battery life. The continuous active tile feature is likely to be a battery drain.

    I assume WP7 will have the same battery life issues as Android as noted in this article. => http://www.cnbc.com/id/37236488

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